The Road to Recovery: Working on Policies That Will Provide Relief to Hotels and Bring Back Travel

Two guests check in at a hotel during the COVID-19 pandemic wearing face masks

When I joined the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) 13 months ago, I could not have imagined the devastation our industry was about to face due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having grown up in a family of hoteliers, I have seen firsthand the ups and downs of hospitality, from 9/11 and the Great Recession to a decade of steady growth and helping millions achieve the American Dream. But 2020 was a year unlike any other: record-low occupancy, massive job loss, and hotel closures across the country. While 2021 will certainly be a better year for hotels, we have a way to go before we return to the pre-pandemic highs the industry had achieved.

Earlier this year, AHLA released our first-ever State of the Hotel Industry report, examining the high-level economic impacts of the pandemic, projections for recovery, the outlook for business travel, and a deep dive into consumer travel sentiments. Key findings from this study include:

  • Half of U.S. hotel rooms are projected to remain empty this year
  • Hotels will remain nearly 500,000 jobs below the industry’s pre-pandemic employment level of 2.3 million direct hotel workers
  • While leisure travel is beginning to resume, business travel—which comprises the largest source of hotel revenue—remains nearly non-existent and will take years to recover
  • Consumers see vaccination as key to travel, and they place high value on enhanced cleaning and hygiene practices when making decisions about hotel stays

The road to recovery is long, but we remain optimistic about the future. AHLA is eager to work with the Biden Administration and Congress on policies that will provide relief for hotels, bring back travel, and through those priorities support jobs and economic development. Our priorities include:

  • A longer-term stimulus package to ensure our industry survives, hoteliers can keep their doors open, and workers can return to their jobs
  • Ramping up vaccine distribution and testing, which is key to travel’s return
  • Protecting businesses that follow proper public health guidance from undue liability
  • Reviving international travel to the United States, which has been flat or declining for the last six years

No industry has been more impacted by COVID-19 than hospitality. That is why AHLA is working with members of Congress on targeted relief specifically for our industry. Hotels have a tremendous impact on the communities we serve—every 10 direct hotel property jobs support an additional 26 jobs elsewhere, from restaurants and retailers to hotel suppliers and construction. Saving hotels and hotel jobs will have a positive ripple effect throughout our economy. During such a critical time for our industry, it is more important than ever that we are all engaged. There are two easy things you can do to help us tell the hotel industry’s story to Congress:

  1. Join HotelsACT. Through AHLA’s grassroots network, you can easily connect with your elected officials to tell your story and help affect change in Washington and throughout the country. It is free and open to anyone connected to the hotel industry.

2. Complete our AHLA Front Desk Feedback survey. These surveys cover timely topics such as hotel staffing, the Paycheck Protection Program and debt, and operating status, which help us understand and quantify how policy proposals in Washington are affecting you on the ground. You can see past survey results here. Front Desk Feedback surveys are distributed periodically via email and text to AHLA members and take less than 15 minutes to complete. Individual responses are confidential, and the results are reported only in aggregate.

Together, we can begin the road to recovery, reignite our economy, and strengthen the communities we serve.

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Matt Carrier is vice president of government affairs, policy, and research for AHLA.